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The Middle Class, Civil Rights and Popular Protest in Urban China

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Chinese citizens' demand for greater say in politics

The Chinese middle class – led by homeowners' rights groups – is demanding more participation in politics. An EU initiative explored how such groups are at the forefront of democratic change in China.

Industrial Technologies

Against a backdrop of rising unemployment, a widening gap between rich and poor, and increasing expectations among the growing middle class, homeowners' groups are fighting for civil rights through protests and demonstrations. As a result, the Communist Party is up against a growing wave of political reform. With this in mind, the EU-funded POPULARPROTESTCHINA (The middle class, civil rights and popular protest in urban China) project set out to examine how homeowners' groups have led the change in an attempt to democratise China for the first time since the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. Project partners analysed how homeowners' rights movements in urban areas grew in popularity over the years despite an authoritarian regime. This was achieved through fieldwork, research and conference participation. To observe Beijing homeowners' rights movements, researchers attended key events initiated by the Beijing Bid Committee for Homeowner's Association, the Governance and Community Institute, and other strategic organisations aimed at safeguarding homeowners' interests. Homeowner association leaders and 15 local officials were interviewed in Beijing, Hainan Province and Sichuan. Researchers studied various social media channels exploited by homeowners' associations to raise awareness, engage like-minded activists, and promote actions such as protests and demonstrations. Lastly, several recommendations were laid down targeting key EU actors that are designed to encourage the peaceful transformation and development of China's civil society. Project outcomes and policy implications were presented at eight conferences organised by local government, universities and non-governmental organisations. Four papers were published in leading journals. Thanks to POPULARPROTESTCHINA, European, Chinese and east Asian policymakers are better able to understand the middle class, social movements and local democratic governance in China. Decision-makers across Europe are also well positioned to gauge the democratic winds of change in the EU's second most important trading partner.


Politics, middle class, homeowners' rights, democratic, China, civil rights, popular protest

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